Vintage Postbag, September 1972

Coventry Museum


I very much appreciated your article on the Coventry Motor Museum (Motor Sport, July 1972). Having viewed the various exhibits on a number of previous occasions your description of the various marques and their special features has caused great interest, particularly in the case of the Siddeley-Deasy and its track-rod adjustment.

Many veteran and vintage cars of that era were never provided with the facilities for adjustment and in the event of a correction being made it was usually the blacksmith’s fire, or a blowlamp, supplying the heat and a dexterous mechanic getting to work with hammer and cranking irons. My early experience in the motor trade was a short training with one of these characters, and the job of keeping the irons in safe custody.

Calling at Coventry on my way to the recent Beaulieu Motor Auction, I enjoyed the “50 Years—Swallow to Jaguar” exhibition at the Coventry Motor Museum, and congratulate the sponsors on their magnificent tribute to Sir William Lyons and the marque he has made so famous.

Chester. W. R. Chapman.

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Model-T Ford Production Figures


I was rather surprised to see in the March issue that you had fallen for Volkswagen’s claim that they have passed the total number of Model T Fords made.

Although you quote no figures, they were given elsewhere, and you will find that the number on which the claim is based was 1,5007033, the number given in the section headed “The Ubiquitous Model T”, by Les Henry, in Floyd Clymer’s book, “Henry’s Wonderful Model ‘T”.

What Volkwagens have either ignored or not realised is that the fifteen million were built in the Highland Park factory, while another 12,247, with prefix B, were made at another factory in Detroit and further still, there was the production of the Canadian factory, where the serial numbers had the prefix C (for confirmation see above reference).

The Ford Motor Company of Canada is unable to give the exact number of Model T Fords it made, but the highest known surviving serial number is just short of 750,000.

I gather that someone for a free VW in honour of the false occasion. Can I put in a claim for my free one when they do actually pass the Ford total ?

Tranmere, S. Australia G. H. Brooks.

[I often wonder who counted them! Another important aspect is that Ford sold so many Model Ts when the demand for cars, and production techniques, admittedly of less-complicated machinery, was far lower than in recent decades. — Ed.]

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Vintage Cars and the EEC


With reference to the various letters in your columns relative to Common Market Regulations and how they do or may affect our vintage and veteran motor cars on English (or should I say British) roads:

A friend of mine in Lyon, who owns vintage cars, informs me that they are not allowed on Motorways in France and was surprised to go in my 1928 “4 1/2” Bentley to SilverStone up the “M.1”.

I have not gone further into the matter but the above appears to be fact, at least in France.

London, NW2. C. J. L. Mertens.

[And, apart from any EEC problems, what about the new British regulation making any car with a fixed windscreen and no screen washers illegal after October 1st, which will affect some of the 1930s-1950s cars, a minority which up to now has managed well enough without this refinement and of which no statistics exist to show they have been involved in accidents because of the lack of washers ? — Ed.]

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Fake Restorations


Reacting, perhaps not Surprisingly, to Mr. Bird’s letter on fake restorations, as I am the author of the article “First you find a Radiator”. (In fact this was the Editor’s heading, not mine), it might be surprising to him to learn that I do not on the whole disagree with his sentiments, in as far as they are practical.

However, briefly to set the record straight with regard to original parts on this Napier, I do not accept that few were original. The basis of the car and on which it was dated, are the following: radiator, engine, clutch, gearbox, axles, pedals, brakes and wheel centres, all of which came from the same car. The chassis frame, springs and most of the remaining running gear came from another Napier, which I cannot guarantee was the same model, but certainly of very similar date, and to which the engine unit fitted without much work being needed. The body is entirely a replica, but how many pre-war one cars do have original bodies? Even those bodies which are original have in many cases started life on different chassis. To upbraid the Veteran Car Club for not being more selective is not really very fair, they are in fact trying to tighten up on their requirements, but there are great problems.

For instance many of the sole surviving examples of a particular type have had to include many replica parts to complete same, if these are not to be accepted, one would have no representative of that particular vehicle in existence—which does one choose? Recently there was an incident in which a very good Edwardian car was severely damaged in an accident, through no fault of the driver. If it proves impossible to repair the chassis frame, what does one do—make a replica or scrap the car? Another problem is “up-dating” by the manufacturers. From my own family’s experience I can vouch for the fact that before the first war, it was not at all unusual to return a car, after a few years’ ownership, to the makers to be rebuilt, a process which frequently involved fitting the latest engine, braking and control systems. Hence in 1910 one could have had a 1904 car to a large extent altered to 1910 specification. How does one date this in 1970?

In the same vein it was quite normal in the early days, to either transfer a favourite body to a later chassis, or re-body a good chassis with a new body.

In principle I agree with Anthony Bird’s comments that the genuine unaltered, all original vehicle is the only true antique, but in practice I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to decide which were genuine, especially with regard to those restored say thirty years ago. If such a standard could be imposed I would imagine the number of cars would drop to certainly no more than twenty-five per cent of their present number with the consequential great price rise which would occur, bringing them to even more ridiculous heights. Another problem is, how does one allow for genuine wear and tear? The chap with an early steamer is likely to need nearly a new car every so often. Many of these had a wood chassis/body structure which suffered with rot of various kinds over the years. Boilers and burners have to be replaced, as do some of the pumps and pipes. One is left with the axles and engine as original! Then one has to consider parts damaged by accident.

With regard to the actual supply of parts, is it any different buying what parts R-R still have available for the Ghost, to making as exact copies, those bits which are now out of stock? My suggestion as a possible answer to all these difficult problems, is that to be acceptable the car must be constructed as far as is reasonably possible of either genuine parts, or exact copies of the original. After all in the art world many of the most valuable old masters have been extensively renovated adding material in the process.

It would be interesting, and of great help to many of us, if any of your readers happens to be gifted with the Wisdom of Solomon to pronounce a viable solution to these problems.

Crosby. R. J. EVANS, Curator, Manx Motor Museum.

Mr. Bird replies:


I am glad to have such a large measure of agreement expressed by Mr. R. J. Evans about the construction of “reproduction” antique motor cars. There is no objection to the reproduction business, unless it is done to deceive, and a good “repro” will acquire a value in its own right, as witness the fact that good late Victorian or Edwardian “Chippendale” dining chairs are now fetching more than £1,000 for a set of “six-and-two”. The problem is that the known “repro” or “bitza” gets passed off as the genuine article all too often; not by the original maker usually but often in ignorance.

In a letter to me Mr. Evans mentions Stanley Sears’ 30 h.p. Rolls-Royce as a case where it is better to have the car with many replica bits rather than not to have an example of the model. I quite agree, but this leads directly to the classic example of Mr. Sears’ 4-cylinder 1905 Tourist Trophy Rolls-Royce Replica which, when it first appeared was always listed (in Events Programmes for example or picture captions), as a replica. Now, however, the word replica is often dropped, through no ill intent on anybody’s part, and a younger generation of enthusiasts may believe the car to be genuine. Indeed, I have heard it referred to as the 1905 T.T. Rolls-Royce which carries the implication that it was the actual winning car. Similarly a 1909 (or thereabouts) Silver Ghost chassis, with not a few non-original parts, was fitted some years ago with a beautiful replica of the 2-seater body Charles Rolls used for carrying his balloons, but in default of any proper classification system it can be foreseen that future generations may accept this car as the real thing and value it accordingly. This may just as easily happen through ignorance as dishonesty.

As things stand, the only classification occasionally used by the Veteran Car Club is to put the capital letter M after the description of a car in events programmes, etc. This signifies that the car has been modified in external appearance since it was first built, but even this half-hearted classification is rarely used and may lead to the absurd situation that, for example, D. B. Tubbs’ absolutely genuine 1906 Gobron-Brillié may be given the M classification simply because it has a 1909 body which is the first and only complete body to have been fitted to it; for the first three years of its life the car was used for demonstration with a rough test rig. Using the same criteria a reproduction, such as Mr. Evans’ Napier, would escape the M classification.

As Mr. Evans says, if it were possible to sort the sheep from the goats there would be a drastic reduction in the numbers of Veteran/Edwardian, and even vintage, cars about. This would, I agree, increase still further the value of the genuine specimens but at the same time it would bring the value of the “repros” to more realistic levels. There is no need for me to enlarge on the various difficulties Mr. Evans mentions, such as “updating” by manufacturers, original owners fitting new bodies, allowance for wear and tear and so forth, but there is need for the authoritative body to try to evolve a scheme of classification which would, at least, put the true, the repro and the hybrids in separate categories. The fact that the task is difficult should not be a reason for shirking it. Nearly twenty years ago I evolved a sort of points classification scheme as a basis for better brains than mine to work upon. This was set out in an article in the Veteran Car Club Gazette and ended with a plea that the Executive Committee would look into the problem before it got out of hand. This and a similar request at Annual General Meeting produced no result, and about 18 months ago a letter in the Gazette raised the issue again. Prompted by this, I wrote to the Veteran Car Club and suggested that in view of the anxiety it might be helpful if the Committee would blow the dust off my old scheme and see if they could use it as a basis for a better one of their own. I had a brief acknowledgement but nothing happened for about eight months when I received a letter from Mr. D. C. Field, the club’s historian and official “dating” expert, in which he said, astonishingly, that he had only just come across my letter by chance. The Executive Committee had not even thought of referring the question to him. He had then looked up my old scheme, and said he saw some merit in it, but that the decision of the Executive Committee, regrettably in his view, was that no action need be taken at present.

Odiham. Anthony Bird.


Which Was It?


After reading with interest all about the enormous “Zwicky” fire engine, I wonder if anyone can produce any information about this enormous Benz ?

My brother photographed it in Germany in 1923, and told me it was about 20 ft. long, the top of the radiator was taller than he was, and it was 200 h.p. Registration No. 11A-1191.

Chichester. G. De Jongh.


The 1934 Triumph Dolomite


As the one-time owner of a 1934 Triumph “Gloria”, I was interested to read Donald Healey’s article in your August issue about the twin-cam straight-eight supercharged Triumph Dolomite which ended with the words:—

“People have made rude remarks about my copy of the Alfa Romeo and have suggested that Alfa Romeo threatened Triumph with legal action, etc.—I can categorically deny this; actually they were extremely helpful, as I previously have mentioned”.

At least one person—and a solicitor at that !—has not merely suggested but has positively asserted in a book that the Triumph was “such an exact copy of the Alfa that it became the subject of court proceedings to prevent its manufacture”. (see the footnote on page 205 of “Georges Roesch and the Invincible Talbot”).

As a lawyer myself and the present owner of a Talbot “95”, I am the last person in the world to wish to embarrass Anthony Blight—but it would be interesting to know upon what authority he relied in making this statement! Has Homer nodded ?!

Odiham. Humphrey Oliver.



I have been most interested to read your article on the straight-eight Triumph Dolomite in the April issue, and Mr. Donald Healey’s absorbing account of it in the current number. There remains, however, one question; who built the H.S.M. ?

I saw the H.S.M. in 1946 at the garage run by A. C. Molyneaux and J. West near Manchester, which at that time was the Northern equivalent of the Phoenix as a Mecca for the vintage enthusiast. It was in fact a blown 8 cylinder Dolomite, but had no maker’s name on it other than a radiator badge with the initials H.S.M. I do not remember whether the radiator itself was a Triumph one, but at any rate it was not dissimilar.

The story was that Triumph had sold all their 8 cylinder parts as a result of the threat of legal action by Alfa Romeo and that these had been built up by a firm called High Speed Motors. Mr. Healey has now shown this to be untrue, at least as far as the prospect of litigation goes.

Can anyone tell us how many H.S.M.’s were built in addition to the five Triumphs ? And what became of the one I saw? It attended the first post-war meeting of the VSCC in the North at Chelford, Cheshire in 1946, but I have never seen or heard of it since.


[Name and address supplied—Ed.]